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Experience counts in picking No.6: Waugh

Australia's legendary Test captain says versatility key for batters to fill unfamiliar role in Test side

Steve Waugh understands the challenges of the No.6 position better than anyone and the former Test captain has urged Australia's selectors to stick with their pick for all five Magellan Ashes Tests.

Australia have a large field to choose from for the first Test at the Gabba with the first three rounds of the JLT Sheffield Shield to play a major role in separating the handful of contenders.

Test cricket's all-time leading run-scorer at No.6, Waugh is well aware of the difficulties of the position but says the revolving door of players at fourth-drop needs to stop.

"It’s more about giving that person time to settle in, we’ve been chopping and changing too quickly," Waugh told cricket.com.au.

"It’s like two or three Tests each and let’s try someone else.

"Whoever they pick at number six for first Test should be right through there for the whole five Test matches.

"There's probably 10 people out (fighting) for that spot, it’s hard to single anyone out … you've got a lot of players that are capable of batting at number six."

Last season alone (including the four-Test Qantas Tour of India) Australia cycled through five different players at No.6 – Mitch Marsh, Callum Ferguson, Nic Maddinson, Hilton Cartwright and Glenn Maxwell.

Since Steve Smith took over as full-time Test captain, the average return at that spot is 22.13 while the allrounders used over that 23-game period (who have predominantly batted at six) average 42 with the ball.

Waugh's ton of pain

Waugh, who struck six of his 32 Test tons from No.6 and is the only man to have scored more than 3,000 runs from that spot, concedes it can be a tricky position given many Test aspirants have little experience batting there in domestic cricket.

In the opening round of the JLT Sheffield Shield for example, Test No.6 contenders Glenn Maxwell, Hilton Cartwright (both batting at No.3), Shaun Marsh, Joe Burns, Nic Maddinson (opening), Travis Head (No.4), Marcus Stoinis, and Moises Henriques (No.5) have all slotted in elsewhere for their state sides.

It's something Waugh believes is unavoidable, suggesting the Test spot ideally suits someone with considerable experience.

Steve Waugh's captaincy advice for Steve Smith

"If you're batting high in Shield cricket you should be able to bat at any position really, that’s why you're picked for Australia," he insisted.

"The number six position in the Test side is not where you're going to bat in the Shield. I batted I at number three for New South Wales my whole career but when I played for Australia I batted at five or six.

"It took a bit of getting to know my own game and I think I scored more runs in those positions as I had more experience.

"For a lot of these young players coming into Test cricket they're batting pretty high in the Shield team and then all of a sudden they get thrown in at number six for Australia and that’s a different scenario.

"You've got to wait around a lot longer to bat sometimes, you might have to face the second new ball, it could be reverse swinging, you might have to bat with the tail.

"It’s probably a position that needs a bit of experience. It is a hard position to walk into and do well in straight away."

The other missing piece of Australia's Test XI jigsaw is the wicketkeeping position.

Incumbent Matthew Wade and his predecessor Peter Nevill are the frontrunners but upstart South Australian Alex Carey has been floated as potential bolter for the November 23 series-opener.

Waugh believes the best pure gloveman – who he identifies as Nevill – should win out, but concedes Wade's work behind the stumps on Test tours of India and Bangladesh this year impressed him.

"You want someone firstly who is a very good 'keeper. That’s the most crucial element to the position," he explained.

"If you miss a stumping or a couple of catches that could cost you the Test match, whereas if you get a few extra runs I don't think that’s going to make that much difference most of the time.

"It depends what the selectors want, are they looking long term? Are they looking for this series and to get the best team on the park?

"For me the best keeper in Australia is Peter Nevill but I’d be reluctant to drop Matthew Wade, because I think he kept pretty well on the subcontinent."

2017-18 International Fixtures

Magellan Ashes Series

First Test Gabba, November 23-27. Buy tickets

Second Test Adelaide Oval, December 2-6 (Day-Night). Buy tickets

Third Test WACA Ground, December 14-18. Buy tickets

Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Buy tickets

Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Buy tickets

ODI Series v England

First ODI MCG, January 14. Buy tickets

Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Buy tickets

Third ODI SCG, January 21. Buy tickets

Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Buy tickets

Fifth ODI Perth TBC, January 28. Join the ACF

Prime Minister's XI

PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Buy tickets

T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series

First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Buy tickets

Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Buy tickets

Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Buy tickets

Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 14

Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16

Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18

Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21